Monday, April 21, 2014

A Promise in Pieces by Emily T. Wierenga - REVEIWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing


About the Book:
A baby quilt touches many hearts as it travels from family-to-family and through generations.
After the end of World War II, Clara Kirkpatrick returns from the Women’s Army Corp to deliver a dying soldier’s last wishes: convey his love to his young widow, Mattie, with apologies for the missed life they had planned to share.
Struggling with her own post-war trauma, Clara thinks she’s not prepared to handle the grief of this broken family. Yet upon meeting Mattie, and receiving a baby quilt that will never cuddle the soldier’s baby, Clara vows to honor the sacrifices that family made.
Now a labor and delivery nurse in her rural hometown, Clara wraps each new babe in the gifted quilt and later stitches the child’s name into the cloth. As each new child is welcomed by the quilt, Clara begins to wonder whatever happened to Mattie—and if her own life would ever experience the love of a newborn. Little does she know that she will have the opportunity to re-gift the special quilt—years later and carrying even greater significance than when it was first bestowed.

My Thoughts:
Courage to Care, Courage to Connect, Courage to Change.”  (p. 25)

The Nurse’s Creed Clara learned when she became a Nurse serving in the Army during WWII, becomes an accurate portrayal of her life in Emily Wierenga’s debut novel , A Promise in Pieces.   This novel is such a tender, poignant picture of Clara’s life from her headstrong young adulthood to her days as a woman full of years and grace.  I can honestly say this novel has touched something  deep within my heart.  I’ve witnessed forgiveness, grace, mercy and redemption in equal measure in my walk along the lif-path of Clara as she tells her story.

I don’t want to give ANYTHING away, but this novel is PACKED.  Every life circumstance is seen from an almost divine perspective.  Because it is told in remembrance  the reader is able to understand the fullness of the experience.  Each friendship, each loss, each victory, each challenge, all of it is literally woven into the tapestry of this story.  You will laugh.  You will cry.  You will sing.  You will rejoice.  Truly, as concise as this book is, it contains a lifetime that will impact your heart in a powerful way!!

The story never felt rushed.  Never felt scattered.  It is a rich, full story of Clara’s life that is…simply amazing!! And this is a debut novel folks!! There is more to come!! I can’t WAIT!!!

About the Author:
Emily Wierenga is a former editor, ghostwriter, freelance writer and staff journalist, a monthly columnist for The Christian Courier, and the author of Save My Children (Castle Quay Books, 2008), Chasing Silhouettes (Ampelon Publishing, 2012) and Mom in the Mirror (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). Emily resides in Alberta, Canada. This is her first novel.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Lip Reading by Harry Kraus - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Lip Reading
David C. Cook (March 1, 2014)
by
Harry Kraus


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A Word from Harry:

I started writing my first novel during my last year of surgery training at UK. I was a chief resident, and started writing Stainless Steal Hearts in a call room at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Lexington. It was a crazy time to write! I had a very demanding schedule, often spending days and nights in the hospital. I had two sons at that time, and I recognized the wisdom in my wife's urging: "Now doesn't seem the right time for this dream."

My experience as a writer is far from typical. Having received my formal training in biology and chemistry and medicine, my only preparation for a writing career was a love for reading. The longest thing I'd written before my first novel was a term paper in undergraduate school. My first novel was accepted by Crossway Books and published in 1994, and it wasn't until after I had FOUR published novels that I even opened a book of instruction about the craft of writing fiction. This is not what I recommend to others! Yes, I was successful, but I was bending the "rules" without knowing it. I had a natural talent for plotting, but I realize my initial success may have stunted my growth as a writer. I'd have made faster progress if I'd have gone to the fiction teachers sooner.

I have three sons: Joel, Evan, and Samuel. Look closely in all of my books and you'll see them there. My lovely wife, Kris, provides the basic composition for all those beautiful, athletic, dedicated women in my novels.

ABOUT THE BOOK

She Could Save Millions, or Save Herself

She just needs a little longer. She’s really close. Dr. Rebecca Jackson, a medical researcher, stands on the verge of a breakthrough that will transform medicine. But she soon discovers the reason behind the miraculous progress in her research, and it leaves her with a nearly impossible choice . . . and little time to decide. More than her research is at stake. And more threatens it than this latest revelation. Something she’s tried hard to cover up. There is a high cost to some things in medicine and it’s not always the patient who pays. Can Rebecca find the faith and wisdom she needs to make the right call? The clock is ticking and the pressure is on.

My Thoughts:
“And maybe we don’t see the message behind the pain.  Maybe God is simply trying to redirect our attention toward Him.”  (Noah to Becca)

At the point Noah speaks these words to Becca both she and Noah have suffered their share of pain, broken dreams and redirection.  God’s work has tenderized Noah, while Becca has driven herself deep within her career and away from the pain of relationship with God or anyone who follows Him.  Noah and Becca are both world renowned scientists on the brink of a life altering discovery.  They both need the knowledge the other possesses.  What neither ever anticipated were the pressures and absolute deadlines that were about to be placed before them.  Both will be called to make decisions that will change the eternal destination of many!

Harry Kraus fascinates me because he is both a surgeon and a fiction writer.  He has devoted his life to serve others, and God has blessed him with the ability to share intense medical thrillers with a broad reading audience.  Lip Reading is the best yet, and it contains so many twists and turns until you are literally left gasping for breath through the final chapters.  I don’t know when the stakes have been any higher or the end result any more satisfying!!


When I read the opening chapters I never dreamed the circumstances would be so personal or the consequences so grave.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the way Kraus weaves in true medical scenarios throughout the story that both fascinate and terrify the readers with their reality.  You don’t want to miss Lip Reading!!  It is absolutely fantastic!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Lip Reading, go HERE.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

River Peril by Susan K. Marlow - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Jem Coulter thinks his family is just on a sightseeing trip to the big city of Sacramento. Then armed bandits hold up the stagecoach for the secret stash they’re carrying: gold for the Union Army fighting the distant Civil War! Suddenly war isn’t so far away; it’s right there on the road to Sacramento, with Jem’s father, the sheriff of Goldtown, fighting against the rebel army’s Knights of the Golden Circle.

When the family finally reaches the city, they think they’re safe at last. Setting out to see the sights, Jem, his sister Ellie, and their cousin Nathan make a new friend. But is Henry the pal they think he is? With a father who is a die-hard Confederate, could Henry be in cahoots with the thieves?

River of Peril gives readers ages 8 to 12 the fast-moving, exciting adventure they’ve come to expect in this series, as well as a glimpse into the history of post–Gold Rush and Civil War life in 1860s California, with stagecoaches, steamboats, stowaways—and lots of gold!

My Thoughts:
Boilers are tricky things.”  (p. 65)

Stage wagon bandits, top secret gold shipments and the teeming city of Sacramento, California are among some of the many things that fill the Coulter family’s world in the fourth book of the Goldtown Adventure series – River of Peril.  Once again, Susan Marlow cleverly ties together many strands of a story line that leaves Jem Coulter and his family perilously close to and among many dangerous people and places.  I was thoroughly entertained at the intricate plot twists and the fast paced story telling.

I am well beyond Marlow’s target age group – boys between the ages of 9-12 – but a well-told story is not limited by age!  It thrills my heart to know that there are such wholesome, entertaining and adventuresome books for young boys!

You can read my review of the third book in the series HERE.  I would encourage folks to purchase this set of books for the young readers in your life and to consider donating a set to your local library as well.  It would make a sound investment in the future of young readers!

Roasted Rattlesnakes!  What are you waiting for!? 

About the Author:
Susan K. Marlow has an imagination that never stops! Whether she’s writing books, teaching writing workshops, or sharing what she’s learned as a homeschooling mom, she’s always on the lookout for a new story. The author of the Circle C Adventures and the Circle C Beginnings, Susan enjoys relaxing on her fourteen-acre homestead in the great state of Washington.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Canyon Danger by Susan K. Marlow -REVIEWED



About the Book:
Jem Coulter’s pa, the sheriff of Goldtown, is away on a trip to deliver a prisoner to Sacramento, and he has left Jem in charge of the ranch—along with Aunt Rose, that is.

No sooner is the sheriff gone then trouble starts—a dead calf, a mysterious stranger, and then Pa’s horse, Copper, and his prize rifle are stolen. And Pa’s deputies seem unconcerned.

Jem and his cousin Nathan find Copper’s tracks end at a dark canyon up in the hills. Jem remembers an old Indian legend Strike-it-rich Sam is fond of retelling about people disappearing and no one ever seeing them again. What is the real story of the canyon of danger? Have thieves found the perfect hideout?

Readers ages 8 to 12 will be entertained by the adventurous spirit and historical lure in this fast-moving series that teaches about life in the post–Gold Rush days of 1860s California. Quick-paced plots and unforgettable characters make these books fun for the whole family.

My Thoughts:
Find Copper?  Or shoot the wolf?  Oh, wait. I can’t.  On account of the rifle was with Copper.”  (p. 57)

Twelve-year-old Jem Coulter gets himself into quite the mess in Susan K. Marlow’s young adult book, Canyon of Danger. This is the third installment in the Goldtown Advertures series, so it was my first introduction to his life in Goldtown, but I can tell you now, that I can’t wait to go on another adventure with this winsome young man!  He dad is the sheriff of the town, and he has left Jem to act as the man of the house while he is away.  In short order, he loses or misplaces several important items and then experiences a frightening catastrophe trying to keep the cattle protected from a wolf. 

His curiosity combined with a sense of responsibility proves to be the catalyst that lands him in a very precarious and dangerous place toward the end of the story.  Apparently Jem is prone to such adventures as being trapped in a mine is referenced a couple of times.  I am thankful the townsfolk and his family know him well enough to have a fit of vapors if he goes missing for any length of time!

Marlow has completely captured the adventurous spirit of young boys!  I love the pace of the story, the realistic characters and life circumstances, the loving family – everything!  This is a wholesome adventure tale for young readers, and I am happy to recommend it to you! 

Please join me again tomorrow for a look into the next book in this great series!

About the Author:
I started writing stories when I was ten years old. I never planned on becoming a published author. I just liked writing stories. But eventually others found out about my secret "writing" and encouraged me to submit.
I love to teach. I taught in Christian schools before I home schooled. After twenty years, I finished home schooling but find myself "back in the saddle" as I help other home schooling families, including my grandchildren.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Queen's Handmaid by Tracy L. Higley REVIEWED



About the Book:
From the servant halls of Cleopatra’s Egyptian palace to the courts of Herod the Great, Lydia will serve two queens to see prophecy fulfilled.
Alexandria, Egypt 39 BC
Orphaned at birth, Lydia was raised as a servant in Cleopatra's palace, working hard to please while keeping everyone at arm's length. She's been rejected and left with a broken heart too many times in her short life.
But then her dying mentor entrusts her with secret writings of the prophet Daniel and charges her to deliver this vital information to those watching for the promised King of Israel. Lydia must leave the nearest thing she’s had to family and flee to Jerusalem. Once in the Holy City, she attaches herself to the newly appointed king, Herod the Great, as handmaid to Queen Mariamme.
Trapped among the scheming women of Herod’s political family—his sister, his wife, and their mothers—and forced to serve in the palace to protect her treasure, Lydia must deliver the scrolls before dark forces warring against the truth destroy all hope of the coming Messiah.
My Thoughts:
A flutter of something tickled her belly – apprehension, excitement.  Destiny?  (p. 97)
Tracy Higley has left me with my mouth gaping this time!! WOW!!  Truly, she is the master of historical fiction!  She takes an obscure palace servant – Lydia – and builds a story that is intense from the beginning.  Danger, drama, complex relationships….and it builds and builds….it builds until you think to yourself, “There is no way this will work out!”  And then….the entire picture slowly comes to light and you are blown away!  I mean, this is a very well thought out, historically accurate, complex story line that brings ancient history to brilliant light!  I love it!!

Lydia captures my heart from the beginning, because it is blatantly clear that she has struggled with the lack of history surrounding her very existence.  Her deepest longing is to know who she is and where she came from.   Just at the moment when she begins to catch a glimpse of her past, her destiny beckons her  - or rather, violently shoves her – into her future.  Although struggle, violence and dark emotions surround Lydia’s character, Higley beautifully reveals  God’s sovereignty in the path of her life’s purpose.  I think that’s what intrigues me most.  It is just beautifully woven throughout the story, and when the truth grabs you….well,  you are left with your mouth gaping at the brilliance of the truth.
I’m a long-time fan of Tracy’s work, and The Queen’s Handmaid is truly one of her most brilliant works!  Her passion to discover the history that surrounds every event on the planet is palpable.  She gets better and better with each novel!  I will always be a fan!  Bravo!!
About the Author:
Tracy L. Higley started her first novel at age eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. She has authored many novels, includingGarden of Madness and So Shines the Night. Tracy is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Ancient History and has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Italy, researching her novels and falling into adventures. 

See Tracy's travel journals and more at: tracyhigley.comtracyhigley.com

Friday, April 11, 2014

What Follows After by Dan Walsh - REVIEWED



About the Book:
In 1962, life was simple, the world made sense, and all families were happy.
And when they weren't, everyone knew you were supposed to pretend.

For the past year, Scott and Gina Harrison have been living a lie. While they show up at family get-togethers in the same car, they've actually been separated for over a year. To keep up the charade, they've even instructed their sons, Colt and Timmy, to lie--to their grandparents, their teachers, and their friends.

Colt, for one, has had enough, so he hatches a plan. He and his little brother will run away from their Florida home, head for their aunt's house in Georgia, and refuse to come home until their parents get back together. But when things go terribly, terribly wrong, Scott and Gina must come to grips with years of neglect and mistrust in order to recover their beloved sons, their love for one another, and their marriage.

In this emotional story, bestselling author Dan Walsh takes you on a journey to rediscover the things that matter most in life--love, truth, and family. With profound insight into the heart of a hurting child, he reminds us that a time will come to look back on hard times and smile, because we'll know that what follows after . . . is not what we expected at all.

My Thoughts:
Can you spend time there without dredging up the past?  Can you replace all the fear and pain with something positive?  ‘Cause that’s what it’ll take.”  (Elaine to Colt)

Dan Walsh successfully takes readers back to the year 1962.  Actually, the story is a remembrance of one of the main characters, but the majority of the novel takes place in 1962.  Scott and Gina Harrison’s world had begun to implode months before the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred.  The fallout of their problems descended on their two sons, and the choices that were made on the Fall morning of October 22, 1962 literally exploded in the face of the entire family.  The brunt of the choices made fell squarely upon the hearts and minds of Colt and Timmy, but the end result of their choices transformed the entire family in ways they never imagined possible.

Walsh’s novel is not only nostalgic, but takes a timeless look into the heart of relationships at many different levels.  Scott and Gina’s relationship undergoes the most intense scrutiny, but the relationships between friends and family are also honestly examined.  The result of this honest scrutiny is transformational and solid.  Scott’s words to Colt be summarize the lessons learned:

No one fixes broken things better than God.”  (Scott speaking to Colt)


The lessons were not easy nor painless, but the evidence of God’s healing touch remained upon the family for generations.  Be encouraged……be entertained…pick up your copy of What Follows After today!

About the Author:
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Unfinished GiftThe Discovery, and The Reunion, as well as The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley. He has won three Carol awards, and three of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year (2011-2013). Dan lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. Visit www.danwalshbooks.com for more.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Uncovered by Rod Tucker - REVIEWED


About the Book:
Greg was homeless. As he walked through the park one day, he was surrounded by people. Good people. Caring people. Christian people. People doing ministry. But people totally oblivious to Greg. No one saw him, talked to him, noticed him, or tried to minister to him. The Christians were preoccupied—working hard on the ministry they were putting together—a ministry intended to provide help and healing to the most vulnerable in their city, a ministry designed to reach . . . the homeless!

How do Christians, benefactors of the overwhelming grace of an immeasurably generous God, fail so miserably at showing and distributing—of all things—grace?

In voice and style evocative of Donald Miller and Scot McKnight, yet with a message all his own, Rod Tucker explores how we Christians have become masters of self-deceptive and fake moral living. Just like Adam and Eve, we don’t want anyone to know we are spiritually naked. But covering up around God denies us the freedom of his grace. Until we can be honest with ourselves, honest with God, and honest with others, daily grace will continue to elude us, either as gift received or as gift given. We remain trapped in our Botox spirituality until we come to grips with exactly who we are.

My Thoughts:
So how can the church become a safe place for people to enter into true community?  I can imagine that the answers to that question are quite diverse and for some, extremely complicated. My point in asking the question is not to provide an answer.” (p 93)

Rod Tucker’s book, Uncovered, presents a lot of general statements like the one above that lead the reader in a series of circles.  He’s all about being honest and safe and telling folks the gospel – loving them like Jesus loves them, but he doesn’t want anyone to feel condemned or unsafe in church.  He even uses examples of his gay friends feeling condemned in his presence when he never knew he was saying anything condemning.  Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit, so I’m surprised that Tucker doesn’t realize that the Holy Spirit’s presence in his life convicts people of sin.

While I realize that people can’t affect spiritual transformation in the heart, I am fully convinced that if someone repents from sin that the Holy Spirit will convict and life change will occur.  So in the absence of that change – as displayed one of the folks in chapter 12 – their sinful choices never changed they just found a “safe” place to worship.  That, to me is even more dangerous, because if the truth of God’s Word is “safe” according to Tucker’s definition – it is ineffective.  And I KNOW that not true.

So, Uncovered needs to be reconsidered in the light of God’s Word. I work in a VERY morally diverse job, so I know what it means to show the love of Jesus to folks without condemning them.  I will never speak condemnation to them, but the Holy Spirit will continue His work in their hearts, and that will either produce repentance and a life of transformational change – or outright rebellion of God altogether. 

John 3: 18-21

About the Author:
Rod Tucker is the founding pastor of The River:pm, a church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and author of Remembering a Forgotten Grace: Thoughts on Shame, Beauty, Romance, and Radiance. Growing up attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with his parents instilled in Rod the necessity of honesty, the urgency of grace, and the beauty of community. Through books, speaking, and various forms of media, he seeks to open conversations with real people who are pursuing a real God. Find out more at www.rodtuckersays.com.